Magazine article Radical Teacher

Segregation Now

Magazine article Radical Teacher

Segregation Now

Article excerpt

This issue was initially proposed and developed by Shafali Lal, Radical Teacher editorial collective member, before her death last July. Shafali's experience as a teacher, scholar, activist, and woman of color in the academy all informed her work on an unfinished dissertation entitled Sentimental Science: Children, Social Science, and the Meaning of Race, 1939-1968. (Some of her work from that dissertation appears in Radical Teacher #69, "Progressive Education," in an article entitled "1930s Multiculturalism: Rachel Davis DuBois and the Bureau for Intercultural Education.")

In Shafali's work on twentieth-century American educational and psychological debates over race, she wrote about researchers and educators involved in developing theories of racial identity formation, among them researchers Kenneth and Mamie Clark, whose findings on African-American identity formation were used as evidence in Brown v. Board of Education. The painfully unfinished nature of her project echoes the pain evident in recent conferences and journals reflecting on the unfinished work of Brown after 50 years of "all deliberate speed" in its implementation. Progressive educators find themselves, in looking back at Brown, with more questions than answers. What has the legal strategy of integration accomplished in schools? Is integration still the central goal it seemed to be 50 years ago? Are there other, more effective routes to educational equity? What can we do to keep working towards racial justice in schools at a time when past victories no longer appear victorious? Most reflections on Brown and its legacy are forced to confront the durability of white supremacy in the U.S..

Shafali's original title for this issue was "'Post'-Race," highlighting the unamusing irony of teaching about race at the beginning of the twenty-first century when, according to the progressive schedule of an imagined liberal history, we shouldn't be having this conversation at all. The problem of the color line was conceived as the problem of the last century. And at midcentury, events such as Brown heralded an end to racial divisions in education. However, despite decades of social, political, and legal activism and advocacy around educational equity and diversity, classrooms today are still persistently segregated and racial discrimination continues to affect educational outcomes. As Shafali's call for papers framed it:

   While scholars in a variety of disciplines have
   recognized that race is socially constructed,
   minorities continue to experience the impact
   of racialist thinking in schools, colleges, and
   universities across the nation. … 
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